Rumors began circulating whether or not Kelly Slater would surf in the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach after he pulled a no-show for his Round 1 heat at Snapper nearly two weeks ago. Today, a press release from the World Surf League announced Slater has formally withdrawn from the Bells event, which will commence on March 28, 2018. Slater states that the reason for his withdrawal is that he’s still recovering from the broken foot that he sustained in a freesurf at J-Bay last year.

South African surfer Michael February will take Slater’s spot in the contest in a heavy Round 1 match-up with Filipe Toledo and Griffin Colapinto. After Bells, February will continue as a full time ‘CT competitor the rest of the year, filling the vacancy that will be left when three-time World Champion Mick Fanning retires.

Prior to last year at Bells, Slater and Fanning had met head-to-head in 18 heats over the years. The two surfers were tied at 9 wins each until Fanning beat him last year in a Round 3 match-up, making their heat history tilt 10 to 9 in Fanning’s direction. No one would’ve guessed that that their heat at Bells last year would be the last time the two champions would go head-to-head. Relive their final match-up below.